CFR head calling for "boots on the ground" in Libya

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Libya Now Needs Boots on the Ground

Richard N. Haas, President, Council on Foreign Relations

August 22, 2011

Events in Libya have reached the proverbial beginning of the end, but as is often the case, the truth is that it is closer to the end of the beginning. It is only a matter of time, and quite little time at that, before what is left of Colonel Muammer Gaddafi's era ends. Four decades after it was established, some six months after the world community decided that Col Gaddafi had to go, the regime is crumbling. Defections are multiplying, the favoured son is now in custody, and the rebels are at the gates of the capital Tripoli.

It has been difficult reaching this juncture, but now the truly hard part begins. It is one thing to kill the king and oust the ancient regime, something very different and much more difficult to put something better and lasting in its place. The rebels – in effect a disparate mix (coalition would suggest something more structured than is the case) of individuals and groups, from former regime loyalists to liberal secularists to Islamists – have little in common beyond their opposition to the continued rule of Libya's first family. Now that this goal is about to be realised, their disagreements could well take centre stage.

None of this is unique to Libya; it is the stuff of revolutions throughout recorded history. What is also all but certain is that the Libyans will not be able to manage the situation about to emerge on their own. Col Gaddafi did his best to ensure that there would be no national institution in a position to challenge him; despite the efforts of regime opponents to forge a common front, the result is that there is no national institution ready and able to take over from him.

All of this poses serious challenges to the outside world. Nato's airplanes helped bring about the rebel victory. The “humanitarian” intervention introduced to save lives believed to be threatened was in fact a political intervention introduced to bring about regime change.

Now Nato has to deal with its own success. Some sort of international assistance, and most likely an international force, is likely to be needed for some time to restore and maintain order. Looting must be prevented. Die-hard regime supporters will have to be defeated. Tribal war must be averted. Justice and not revenge need to be the order of the day if Libya is not to come to resemble the civil war of post-Saddam Iraq in the first instance, or the chaos (and terrorism) of Somalia and Yemen down the road.

It is up to Nato, the European Union and the UN, working with the Libyan opposition, the African Union, and the Arab League, to put together a response to the new Libyan reality – a reality that includes 1m refugees, several hundred thousand internally displaced civilians, and a country capable of producing some 2bn barrels of oil a day.

Most importantly, US president Barack Obama may need to reconsider his assertion that there would not be any American boots on the ground; leadership is hard to assert absent participation. But whatever the international response, speed is essential. The passage of time is unlikely to make the options any easier or more appealing.
President Camacho

Whether or not this will happen largely depends on whether Obama thinks it will help him or hurt him in 2012. If Republicans start talking about what a pussy he is again, he may go in.

By the way, I would imagine that there are already de facto boots on the ground there being paid by America. Probably a few squads of SF types and then a division or so of mercenaries they scrounged up from god knows where. I don't see these pussy rebels all of a sudden making this breakthrough on their own after zero progress for months.

Porkchop Holocaust

It is extremely cynical to call for a deployment of ground troops at this point, casually invoking Lybia's inability to mantain security in a post-civil war state, when that civil war was promoted and inflamed by NATO countries. And if ground troops were an option from the start, why not put them there in the beginning and avoid months of bloodshed? Certainly the moral justification is that now that the story's villain was ousted, the conflict lost its emminently political character, being no longer between factions in the classic "Government forces vs. Rebels" setup, but becoming a matter of public policy and funding, in which a youthful government attempts to pacify a restless and mistrustful society.

President Camacho
Yes, just like Iraq, which under Saddam was one of the most stable states in the middle east.

It is not in Gadhafi's or the West's interest to replace Gadhafi's state with stateless anarchy. Just like in Iraq, the only beneficiaries are non-state actors-- clans, smuggling networks, insurgent groups, religious movements etc.

Whatever pessimism and resentment anti-NATO types have, this actually went very well for the Ashkenazi elite back in Europe and America. Sarkozy and Obama did a good job for them, and a proxy regime has been installed. There is little risk of insurgency because Libya is mostly homogeneous politically and ethnically and the foreign troop presence is minuscule. There is no possibility of having the government stolen by a rival neighbor like Iran did to the US/UK in Iraq. And lastly, 'moderate Islamists' will be given just enough power that Jihadists can't ride any popular zeal. The gates will be swung open to Western oil firms, there will be elections wherein every candidate works for said oil firms, and a lot of tax dollars will be poured onto the country to contract companies like KBR, to 'rebuild' for extortionate prices and appease the Libyan masses who will likely enter a naive 'Gaddafi's gone, why isn't this paradise!?' phase in the coming years.

Bob Dylan Roof

LoL the council on foreign relations... Hey Angelina Jolie, what should we do about Libya?

Obongo already authorized the deployment of CIA operatives in Libya because, after all, someone had to lead the ragtag band of resentful tribalists, jihadists, and SWPL twitterati. The U.S. Constitution also says nothing about the President's authority to deploy mercenaries, so it's entirely possible that Libya is filled with Xe paramilitaries.

Every western power involved violated its initial affirmations that involvement was intended to protect civilians, that it would last "days, not weeks," that it wouldn't require Gaddafi's ouster, and that it wouldn't involve arms transfers (check out the rifle @ 00:10 in this video ; Gaddafi must have had some lax gun laws if the rebels were keeping shiny new sniper rifles like that for home protection and desert hunting.)

I thought that Libya was stratified between hundreds of tribes and villages, which explains the support Gaddafi received in the western half of the country.

Western oil firms from France and Italy were already the primary oil interests in the country, but I imagine they'll be better off after regime change.
Niccolo and Donkey
Correct. Like much of the Arab world, Libya has yet to transition to nationalism from tribalism. They're still in the 18th century in European terms.

Berlusconi only jumped on the bandwagon after the writing was on the wall and it was the Italians who pushed to make this as much of a NATO project as possible to ensure that Italy would get a seat at the table during the post-regime concession carve-up. This conflict was the result of the Brits and French deciding to steal from Italy, morphing into NATO expanding its zone of influence at the expense of the BRIC group.

*as a side note, the opposition figure that was assassinated was purported by Pepe Escobar to have been a French intel asset meaning that the Brits are now in the driver's seat with the NTC.
Niccolo and Donkey
Yes, but it isn't loaded with Shia, non-Muslims, or non-Arabs. What sparks many insurgencies is that the government and its foreign backers take sides with a particular ethnic group, and the rival ethnicity has to resist. This won't happen in Libya.
There is tribalism, but tribal leaders can be bought and assassinated.

It's the difference between having to ask mommy for a cookie from the jar, and having the jar.
Cadavre Exquis
Libya is loaded with its own social divisions. You've got the Senussi, the core of the rebel movement, who still lament Qaddafi's coup in 1969, loyalist tribes in the north and central regions, Berbers in the west and south, etc. It not a simple matter of buying all them off, and killing the ones who can't be bought.

Oil politics will play the most decisive role in determining where the country is headed. The key is in forming a National Oil Corporation-style committee, heavily recruited from Qaddafi's oil men - it will need people that know how to play hard-ball with the oil firms. With all the squabbling and jockeying for power likely to be seen in the next few months, I don't see this happening.